The Best Remaining 2022 NFL Free Agents Available

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2022

The Best Remaining 2022 NFL Free Agents Available

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    May is not typically a good time to be adding talent through the free-agent pool, but this year's group of post-draft free agents is not typical.

    There are multiple former Pro Bowl and All-Pro talents who have yet to find homes for the 2022 season. While most are over 30 or about to turn 30, there are multiple players who could still be instant starters for many teams in the league.

    With the first waves of free agency and the draft behind us, teams still have options if they are looking to make their teams better before mandatory camps start.

    Here, we'll look at the best talents available considering previous production, relative health and positional value.

10. OT Eric Fisher

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    Eric Fisher is not the good left tackle he once was, but he's still serviceable, and that's key at a position that gets defined by the number of failures they have on the season. 

    The former No. 1 pick was released by the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason but proved he can still be a starter with the Colts last season. He was part of the offensive line that paved the way for Jonathan Taylor to post 1,811 yards on the ground. 

    Fisher's pass protection took a step back in 2021, allowing seven sacks, per PFF. According to their data, that's just one fewer than he allowed from 2018 to 2020 combined. 

    However, his PFF grade of 68.2 ranked him 46th among all tackles graded by the site and still makes him a starter in the league. 

    Fisher answered questions about his durability as well. He played 15 games last season after the Chiefs let him go in part because of a torn Achilles.

    He's a great fit for a team that needs a veteran starter or a high-quality swing tackle. 

    Potential Fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins

9. WR Julio Jones

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    At this point, Julio Jones may be more name recognition than anything, but there's still some potential for him to be a valuable asset. 

    The 33-year-old would be much higher on the list if he could stay healthy. He has only played 19 games over the past two seasons, making it fair to wonder if he can still make it through a season. 

    And when he's been on the field, he hasn't quite been the dynamic playmaker he once was. He did post his highest yards per target (11.3) in 2020 in his final season with the Falcons, but he caught just one touchdown last year with the Titans. 

    At 6'3" and 220 pounds, Jones still brings a big, physical presence to the wide receiver room. A team desperate for proven production at the receiver position could do worse than bringing in Jones.

    Potential Fits: Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts

8. T/G Daryl Williams

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    In the NFL, a line is only as good as its weakest link, so there's a lot of value in simply being an offensive lineman that won't sink the whole unit.

    While Williams won't light the world on fire, he represents a high floor and has experience as a guard and a tackle. He's only a year removed from posting an impressive 79.4 grade at right tackle from PFF in 2020, and he gave up just four sacks and posted a 67.5 grade on 1,172 offensive snaps this past year while splitting time between guard and tackle. 

    He will turn 30 just before the season and has played in every regular-season game over the last three seasons, so health shouldn't be a concern. 

    Given his experience, he would make sense for any team that is unsure about their plan at right tackle or can use depth on the inside. 

    Potential Fits: Las Vegas Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers

7. DT Akiem Hicks

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    Teams have to be concerned with Akiem Hicks' health after playing just nine games last season while dealing with ankle and groin injuries last season. 

    That's the only way to explain why an interior defender with Hicks' pass-rushing chops is still on the market. The 32-year-old can still bring it when healthy. Even while dealing with those injuries throughout the season, he had 3.5 sacks and a 9.7 percent pressure rate, according to Sports Info Solutions

    For context, that percentage right is right up there with interior defenders like DeForest Buckner (9.8), Quinnen Williams (9.6) and Jeffery Simmons (9.5). 

    Hicks has experience playing as a five-technique as a 3-4 defensive end and has lined up everywhere else on the interior. 

    Hicks probably shouldn't be counted on to play a lion's share of the snaps. His best role is as part of a defensive tackle rotation where he can stay fresh and healthy throughout the season. 

    Potential Fits: Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos

6. TE Rob Gronkowski

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    Despite whispers of retirement and a lengthy injury history, Rob Gronkowski has remained near the top of the tight end hierarchy. His 66.8 yards per game were only topped by Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews among tight ends last year. 

    But Gronk's health has been a big "if" for a while now. Based on his age and previous injuries, Draft Sharks puts the likelihood of him missing at least two quarters during the 2022 season at 95 percent. 

    The 33-year-old has dealt with back, chest and knee injuries in his career. 

    That extensive history is probably why he hasn't committed to playing yet. 

    "So if I'm not all in to do that, then I'm not going to put myself out there in that situation," Gronkowski said about coming back in 2022, per Josh Peter of USA Today. "But if I'm feeling that, if I want to go knock my head around, you know, put my body on the line, if I feel like doing that again, miss that, I would certainly sign another contract.'"

    If Gronkowski does return, it will almost certainly be with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. However, there are other teams that could use a tight end of his skills to take their offense to the next level. 

    Potential Fits: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills

5. Edge Trey Flowers

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    There's no way around it: Trey Flowers' three-year stint with the Detroit Lions was disappointing.

    He played decently with seven sacks in his first season, but the five-year $90 million contract Detroit gave him started to look really bad over the last two seasons. He only played 14 games in that span and notched a disappointing 3.5 sacks.

    That isn't necessarily indicative of his talent level, though. 

    For starters, Flowers' second season in Detroit was more successful than his sack total would have you believe, earning an 83.3 grade from PFF in seven games. He played well against the run and generated 13 total pressures.

    Flowers was less productive in 2021 as he transitioned to Dan Campbell's defense, but he played in a system he wasn't signed to play in. 

    Ultimately, he's a 29-year-old with proven production at an important position. Given the chance to go to a new team and with the possibility that he has fully recovered from the knee and shoulder issues that ailed him last season, he could have a strong redeeming campaign in 2022. 

    Potential Fits: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders

4. OT Duane Brown

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    Duane Brown might not be the elite left tackle he was in his heyday, but he's still more than capable of starting. 

    Brown is entering his age-37 season, which is scary and explains why he's still on the market. But he's started every game over the last two seasons and is still playing at a relatively high level. 

    Father Time comes for everyone, but Brown has done enough to show he deserves a shot. Last season, he was the highest-graded lineman on the Seahawks roster by PFF with a grade of 72.0. 

    Brown did give up a less-than-ideal eight sacks last season. However, Russell Wilson is traditionally one of the most-sacked quarterbacks every season, which comes from a combination of a poor offensive line and Wilson's penchant for extending plays. 

    Brown still represents one of the few starting-caliber left tackles available who also has a relatively clean bill of health. Any team looking for a one-year stopgap to protect their quarterback's blindside should give Brown consideration. 

    Potential Fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams

3. C J.C. Tretter

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    Center might not be the most valuable position on the offensive line, but it is still surprising that there is one as good as J.C. Tretter still on the market. 

    Tretter's departure from Cleveland had more to do with financials and little to do with his level of play or health. He was the fifth-highest graded player on the roster by Pro Football Focus and only gave up one sack on the season. 

    The veteran center is set to enter his age-31 season, but health shouldn't be a concern. He has played in 16 games in each of the last five seasons. 

    Tretter has a wealth of experience and will bring leadership and solid play to whatever team picks him up. He's a plug-and-play starter from Day 1 who will be solid in pass protection and an asset in the run game. 

    Anyone with questions on the interior would benefit from bringing him on board. 

    Potential Fits: Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants

2. WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Odell Beckham Jr. is no longer the bonafide WR1 that he used to be. Injuries and age have left him a step slower than he was in his prime, but the 29-year-old proved in his time with the Los Angeles Rams that he can be the No. 2 or 3 option on a team that contends for the Super Bowl. 

    OBJ's numbers with the Rams weren't much different than the production he had in Cleveland outside of his touchdowns (five touchdowns in eight games, none in six games with the Browns). But once Beckham got into the playoffs for the second time in his career, he was a big factor in the Rams offense. 

    He posted 21 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns in four postseason games. 

    Beckham would likely be signed already or higher on this list if it weren't for health concerns. He tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, so questions remain as to how quickly he'll come back and what he'll look like when he does. 

    Still, any team looking to bolster their receiving corps would do well in adding Beckham at this point. 

    Potential Fits: Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts

1. Edge Jadeveon Clowney

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    After an injury-plagued season in 2020 with Tennessee, Jadeveon Clowney signed a one-year "prove-it" deal with the Cleveland Browns.

    He did everything to prove that he's still a legitimate starting edge defender in the league. Clowney had nine sacks after combining for just three in his previous two seasons. What's more is that he stayed relatively healthy, playing 74 percent of the snaps across 14 games.

    Part of that production might have come from playing across from Myles Garrett. Clowney works best as a No. 2 pass-rusher nowadays, but he's still a high-end No. 2 option.

    Pass-rush is obviously something that most teams could use, but Clowney's abilities as a run-defender make him someone that is best suited for a team that's going to give him a similar workload to the one he saw in Cleveland.

    The Browns are among the teams that should still be competing for his services.

    Potential Fits: Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers

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